Consultant calls fine 'excessive'

A consultant for a family trust fined Wednesday by the California Coastal Commission called the punishment "excessive" but said the group would comply with terms of a settlement.

Ed Mountford, speaking on behalf of the Donald E. Goodell and Shirley L. Goodell Family Trust, said the group would do its best to come up with the $430,000 fine imposed by the commission.

The trust, which owns a 6.2-acre property in Bolsa Chica and plans to build homes on it, was penalized for disobeying commission guidelines by excavating portions of a historic Native American site.

The commission had originally proposed a $130,000 fine, but in negotiations during Wednesday's hearing, it was more than tripled.

"My personal opinion was it was excessive," Mountford said. "I thought the original amount was fair."

The settlement also calls for the Goodell trust to rebury the material, known as midden, that it dug up in 2010; to enlist Native American monitors to oversee the restoration; and to fund an archaeological conservation project somewhere in coastal Orange County.

Andrew Willis, an enforcement analyst for the commission, said it would be up to the Goodell trust to propose the project, which could take the form of an interpretive center, preserved land or other things. The commission's hope, he said, was that the project would take place in Bolsa Chica.

"We certainly would want to get something as close to the impacted area as possible to best mitigate the impacts," Willis said.

The commission authorized the Goodell trust in April 2010 to conduct a surface survey of the property for the purpose of gathering data for archaeological maps. Over the next two months, Scientific Resource Surveys Inc., an Orange-based firm hired by the trust, not only did the surface survey but also dug up 16 pits on the property.

Mountford said Nancy Wiley, the firm's owner, misinterpreted the commission's guidelines and thought she could excavate up to two meters into the ground without a permit. He added that if the Goodell trust later obtains a permit to excavate the property, Wiley's group will not be on board for the project.

Wiley could not be reached for comment.

Midden consists largely of kitchen waste, but sometimes contains human remains and artifacts, Mountford said. He noted, though, that the excavation two years ago only touched the surface of the midden and did not unearth any remains or artifacts.

The Goodell property, adjacent to the Brightwater housing development, got prezoning approval from the Huntington Beach City Council in 2009. However, the homes cannot be built until the city annexes the Goodell land and the city and commission issue various permits, Mountford said.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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